Whether you’re blasting zombies in an FPS, navigating the puzzles of a platformer or simply enjoying the scenery of a walking simulator, you’re playing a game. But what is a game, exactly? The word has a wide definition spanning activities from competitive and skill-based to pure narrative and immersive. Regardless of their differences, all games have common characteristics: a set of rules and tools to interact with them. The tools can be as simple as a token such as a pawn on a board or as complex as an in-game avatar or even real-world physical objects. The rules of a game can be based on luck, strategy, skill or a combination of both. The environment is also an important component of a game. A hide-and-seek game in a school building will be very different from one in a park, and an auto race on a track or street course is radically different from an auto race on a city road.

A key feature of games is that they stimulate a person’s emotions and thoughts, creating fun and challenge. They also often serve a functional role, such as training practical skills or providing a form of exercise, or they can provide psychological stimulation and act as an outlet for anxiety. Games are generally associated with children, but adults can play them too. In fact, many adults find that gaming helps them to overcome stress and depression.

Computer gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry. Originally it was limited to arcade machines, but has now evolved into a variety of digital platforms from PC and mobile phones to tablet computers and televisions. Games come in all shapes and sizes, from classic arcade titles to complex virtual worlds that require specialized hardware to run.

In addition to the programming of a game, many computer games are developed with other creative disciplines such as art, design and music. These elements can be used to create an original work of art, or they may be used to create a unique gameplay experience.

While the term “game” has a broad range of meanings, the majority of gamers use it to refer to an interactive entertainment experience. This can include video games, card and board games, sports, or any activity that involves the use of imagination or skill to entertain. While games can be used for both educational and entertainment purposes, the primary goal of most games is to provide a challenge or reward to the player.

Studies that combine objectively measured video game play with survey data are essential for understanding the role of games in well-being. However, a shortage of accurate behavioural data has held back research on this area and has prevented the development of effective gaming regulations. To resolve this gap, scientists must collaborate with video game companies in a transparent and credible manner to record and make available the telemetry data that can accurately measure player engagement. The lack of such data has resulted in an inconsistent and fragmented body of literature on the relationship between video games and well-being.